How can you protect yourself from distraction burglars?

Burglars claim to be delivering flowers - and other nasty techniques

Criminals pretended to be delivering flowers, in order to trick their way into one woman's home. It's surprisingly easy to be taken in by a distraction burglary, so its important to know common excuses they use to get you to let them in.

In this case, the tricksters struck on Mother's Day in the US. They arrived with flowers and balloons, preying on the fact that everyone likes to receive flowers, so they lower their guard. Once they were in the home, they threatened the woman, and ransacked her house.

It's an unusual twist on the kind of doorstep con that's all-too common. We all need to be aware of the scams criminals will use to get access to your home.

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Protect yourself from five common tricks

1. Usually you will receive a knock on the door out of the blue. Traditionally burglars have insisted they are there to read the meter, and when you take them through the house, they will swipe your valuables.

If someone calls with this claim, ask for their ID card, then leave them on the doorstep, and go inside to call the company they are claiming to be from - to check they are legitimate. It's also worth talking to service providers in advance to see if they have a password scheme. That way if anyone from the company calls unannounced, they should be able to prove their identity by giving you the password.

2. Other burglars will arrive with a tall tale, and ask for money. They may, for example, pretend they have locked themselves out and need the cash for a cab to collect the spare set. Some people find it difficult to refuse this kind of request, but if you choose to give money to someone in this position, consider it written-off, because there's a good chance everything they have told you is untrue.

3. Their tale of woe may not culminate in a request for money, but don't assume you're off the hook. They may say they need to use the phone, or a drink of water. However, if you let them in, they will then be free to help themselves to your valuables. To stay safe, you can simply refuse to help, or you can leave them outside, and fetch whatever it is they have asked to borrow.

4. Sometimes they will arrive with a child, who tells you they have kicked a football into the garden. While you let them through the house and into the garden to get the ball, the adult will steal whatever valuables are to hand. Instead of letting them in, by far the best approach is to tell them that you will get it for them. Then close and lock the door before retrieving it from the back garden.

5. In rare cases, they will ring the front doorbell, and while they keep you talking at the door, their accomplice will sneak in through the back door or a window, and steal anything small and valuable in easy reach. The best way to protect yourself is to keep the doors and windows closed at the back unless you are in the garden - or just inside.

It's always best to err on the safe side. Install a security chain and put it on whenever you open the door. Don't let anyone in unless you know exactly who they are - and they have proven it to you. And if you are ever in any doubt, keep them on the doorstep, and go inside to phone a friend or family member to ask their advice.

Ten unfortunate criminal mistakes

Ten unfortunate criminal mistakes